Metal accumulation by plants : evaluation of the use of plants in stormwater treatment

Sammanfattning: Metal contaminated stormwater, i.e. surface runoff in urban areas, can be treated in percolation systems, ponds, or wetlands to prevent the release of metals into receiving waters. Plants in such systems can, for example, attenuate water flow, bind sediment, and directly accumulate metals. By these actions plants affect metal mobility. This study aimed to examine the accumulation of Zn, Cu, Cd, and Pb in roots and shoots of plant species common in stormwater areas. Furthermore, submersed plants were used to examine the fate of metals: uptake, translocation, and leakage. Factors known to influence metal accumulation, such as metal ion competition, water salinity, and temperature, were also examined. The following plant species were collected in the field: terrestrial plants – Impatiens parviflora, Filipendula ulmaria, and Urtica dioica; emergent plants – Alisma-plantago aquatica, Juncus effusus, Lythrum salicaria, Sagittaria sagittifolia, and Phalaris arundinacea; free-floating plants – Lemna gibba and Lemna minor; and submersed plants – Elodea canadensis and Potamogeton natans. Furthermore, the two submersed plants, E. canadensis and P. natans, were used in climate chamber experiments to study the fate of the metals in the plant–water system.Emergent and terrestrial plant species accumulated high concentrations of metals in their roots under natural conditions but much less so in their shoots, and the accumulation increased further with increased external concentration. The submersed and free-floating species accumulated high levels of metals in both their roots and shoots. Metals accumulated in the shoots of E. canadensis and P. natans derived mostly from direct metal uptake from the water column.The accumulation of Zn, Cu, Cd, and Pb in submersed species was in general high, the highest concentrations being measured in the roots, followed by the leaves and stems, E. canadensis having higher accumulation capacity than P. natans. In E. canadensis the Cd uptake was passive, and the accumulation in dead plants exceeded the of living with time. The capacity to quickly accumulate Cd in the apoplast decreased with successive treatments. Some of the Cd accumulated was readily available for leakage. In P. natans, the presence of mixtures of metal ions, common in stormwater, did not alter the accumulation of the individual metals compared to when presented separately. It is therefore, proposed that the site of uptake is specific for each metal ion. In addition cell wall-bound fraction increased with increasing external concentration. Further, decreasing the temperature from 20ºC to 5ºC and increasing the salinity from 0‰ to 5‰ S reduced Zn and Cd uptake by a factor of two.In P. natans the metals were not translocated within the plant, while in E. canadensis Cd moved between roots and shoots. Thus, E. canadensis as opposed to P. natans may increase the dispersion of metals from sediment via acropetal translocation. The low basipetal translocation implies that neither E. canadensis nor P. natans will directly mediate the immobilisation of metal to the sediment via translocation.To conclude, emergent and terrestrial plant species seem to enhance metal stabilization in the soil/sediment. The submersed plants, when present, slightly increase the retention of metals via shoot accumulation.